To say my experience in Kenya was amazing would be an understatement. My experience in Kenya with IMA was truly life changing. It opened my eyes to many things including the differences in health care delivery, culture, politics, disease burden and much more. My first day in Kenya I was welcomed at the airport by IMA staff, they immediately made me feel welcome and safe. All Kenyans truly made me feel welcome and safe. There smile, spirit, and culture was immediately evident and welcoming. As we drove to the residence IMA staff gave me a brief education on the areas we were passing by. They pointed out Coast General from the road so I could see just how large the public hospital was from a distance, soon where I’d be interning. They pointed out the different shops (how most make a living in Kenya) and the differences in driving from what I am accustomed to in the United States.
Upon arrival to the residence, they helped me get my bags and introduced me to the house keeping staff as well as the chef who would be taking care of me the next couple weeks. I was then shown where I would be staying and given a tour of the residence. The residence made me feel safe and secure. I had a few concerns arise that were immediately addressed by in country support and my Program Mentor. It made me feel even more welcome knowing that I had the support if I needed it. The IMA staff became like my new family.
Over the next couple weeks, I spent time at the hospital following the Clinical Officer, interviewing patients, and taking care of their needs. I was also able to observe many emergencies in the emergency room. Following the Clinical Officer really allowed me to see first-hand the diseases affecting Kenya and how treatments performed are much different of that than the United States. I’ve seen first-hand how malaria affects the country and why malaria can be serious, I seen how Dengue fever also effects the region, this another mosquito borne illness. I’ve seen how respiratory illnesses like pneumonia, rhinovirus, and adenovirus impact the children of Kenya as well as non-respiratory illness like H. Pylori impact the children. I became aware of how lucky we are in America to haveaccess to clean food, air, and drinking water.
We did a hygiene education session at the local school, a subject very much taboo in Kenya. We taught young girls about menstrual health and proper hygiene. At first, I was very nervous and I thought I wouldn’t enjoy teaching young girls about menstrual health. It was very out of my comfort zone and I wasn’t sure what to share. However, I reminded myself why I came on this journey in the first place, it was to push myself out of my comfort zone and immerse myself in another cultures healthcare system. I embraced teaching the young girls, the girls asked us many questions about our own experiences and we were able to share our own experiences with them. It wasn’t until after we were done that, I realized how big of an impact I had and how big of an impact the menstrual hygiene clinics IMA does have on the communities of Kenya.
As I have returned home from Kenya, I have taken everything I learned home with me. It’s important that we continue to advocate for change in Kenya. Kenya needs access to clean water for cooking, hygiene, and drinking. Kenya needs access to a better healthcare system. Currently in Kenya access to healthcare is a privilege not a right. Payment is due at the time of service, if you cannot pay service is not rendered and this is not fair to the Kenya communities. The money America sends overseas helps fight HIV in Kenya. Women are able to receive free medication to manage their HIV due to support from the United States. This is amazing and I am so glad I learned this during my medical internship.
I would highly recommend a medical internship with International Medical Aide. It will challenge you to grow mentally, physically and emotionally. It will challenge you to fight for change in other countries and it will challenge you to advocate for better healthcare for all.
Thank you to all of the IMA staff for making this experience possible